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Flash Fiction Friday: House of a Million Sorrows

by Shawn Milazzo

In public, we wear masks. I’m walking the dense roads of society. The world around me only becomes more populated. They removed our faces, our personalities. It is unknown to us who they are. All we know is they came to our planet, many years ago. They came from the clouds. We began to forget who we were, others never knew. They have changed us, forcing us to wear porcelain masks of faces that are not our own. I see through sightless activity, yet everything before me is clear- as clear as light passing through a flawless pane of glass.

I see the crowds of my people, in a dizzying wave of neglect. Most of my people are unaware of the jobs that have been assigned to them. That man over there, he runs a dirty hotdog stand of baga meat. That woman over there, she sells topless metal hats. A young street urchin stands at the end of the street, he is panhandling the disguised brain chips as happy pamphlets.

I’m finally at my prison, my home. The synapses in my head fire off to my circuit board, telling me it is time to mow the lawn now. I always did enjoy landscaping, but now, I enjoy it more. My neighbors silently wave to me. I tilt my head and wave back to them. I feel like this is the perfect scene, like a set on an old 1950’s black and white TV show. Nothing is wrong here. Nothing.

BEEP.

Oh, it’s time. I say in my mind. I have no real mouth or voice. They command me to do my set task for the day, so I comply. I leave my mower and glide into my house. I descend upstairs and enter my near vacant basement. The only thing I’m allowed to have in my basement is what they gave me. It’s my only purpose of living. It’s what I’m programmed to do.

In front of me is the machine. It is a woman suspended by hooks and cables. A mix between robotic and flesh. She is oddly familiar. Her face was never tampered with. She is beautiful. Although deceased, she stares at me. We are connected. She tells me this through her sunken eyes. I feel connected, to this disconnected machine. Her legs are propped up and spread open on stirrups. What used to be her vagina and anus is now a printing device. Her shared orifice is the exit area for the copy that they send, the intelligent text to my people.

I flip the switch on the wall to activate the woman. Her body jerks as the electrical blood current flows through her. The cogs begin to turn, her ribcage opens and closes. It breathes and spurts warm steam. Her head pulls back, her jaw detaches, and her mouth forms a circle. The fluorescent energy blasts through the ceiling. She is fully activated. And-

For a moment, we are one.

The copy prints out on an unending document. It folds like candy ribbon. I touch the paper.

BZZERRP.

What is going on?! Something’s not right! The basement light above me strobes with no audio effect.

BZERPP.

I stax4rt t0 m4lf^nc+i0n. The t t t t 3xt sh0xw$ me ever7t#hing*

Th3!r w0r|d. Th h h he!r p30ple.

It’s absolutely

Terrifying

.Xx%T#20H1x09Eqll(@exXnWd.

_____

Shawn Milazzo has been writing strange hieroglyphics since he was a child. He claims it comes from automatic writing from a supernatural force. This entity has made him an upcoming author of bizarro and horror. As a Horror Writer Association member, he has written for comics My Shadow’s Footsteps, video games Skywind, flash fiction such as The Party, and his most recent House of a Million Sorrows.
Shawn can be found here- Author’s Official Website

Show Me Your Shelves: William Pauley III

Besides having a cool name, William Pauley III is one of those writers whose books never fail to entertain because he takes full advantage of bizarro’s lack of rules in order to create narratives that are fun, wild, and unique (you know, and gory and creepy from time to time). Besides being a hell of a writer, Williez is also a really cool cat with a great sense of humor and, if the picture below is any indication, antlers. WPIII’s last book brings together known characters, the Taos Hum, the Toynbee tiles, and a delicious plethora of pop culture references. I decided to ask about it, along with some other very important things. Dig it.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

I wish you only asked me what role books play in my life, cause this whole ‘who are you’ business is freaking me out a bit. I’ve sat here staring at the screen for at least 15 minutes wondering just who the hell I am. You’ve got me thinking about things, heavy things, things that should have been kept deep in the darkest pits of my mind. Is the rest of the interview going to be like this? Christ.

I am a father first, writer second. Whenever I have time, I work on making my dream of opening the world’s first water-only (nothing else…at all) bar a reality.

Books play a significant role in my life. Without them, I wouldn’t need bookshelves. Without bookshelves, my room would be completely empty. They say your bedroom is a reflection of your mind and without bookshelves, it would appear that my mind is mostly empty space and echoes (which is an accurate representation of only part of my brain). Oh, and books tend to have amazing stories inside them.

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You read across the board; what were the last five books that made you go “Holy mackerel, this is certainly some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious shit that maybe I wish I’d written, Sammy!”?

The first one that comes to mind is The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss. It’s a phenomenal book about a child’s experience during the American Civil War. His father goes off to fight, his mother dies, and the landscape is painted in such a way that it feels grounded in reality, yet somehow also completely surreal. Kloss’ voice is McCarthy/Faulkner-esque, but in 2nd person. Good stuff.

The second super-cali-docious book would have to be Burn Down the House and Everyone In It by Zachary T Owen. It’s a phenomenal collection of horror stories – some funny, some completely fucked up and scary. I get bored reading horror pretty easily, but that wasn’t the case at all here. Owen has a unique voice that I feel horror desperately needs. It’s difficult to find original ideas in that genre anymore, but Owen has a whole book of them. Hopefully he’ll one day have many books of them.

The third…David Cronenberg’s Consumed. I loved it. I’ve been a longtime fan of his films and this novel is everything I expected it to be and more. Deformed penis!

Fourth would have to be Pincher Martin by William Golding. I adore Golding’s writing. I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed Lord of the Flies. I’m surprised I don’t hear more people talking about this book. It’s wild, surreal, and had me flipping pages until there were no more left to flip. There is a second title to this book, and it’s a nice little tease: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin. Keep it in mind while reading the book.

Last one: Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (or really any book by Cormac McCarthy). This one is brutal, man. For those of you that have read it, you know why this book is incredible. For those of you that haven’t read it, there are no words, other than McCarthy’s, that can accurately describe what’s in store for you when you read this novel. You’re going to feel all kinds of feels and think all kinds of thinks. A brilliant piece of literature.

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I think there’s a WP3 mythos already out there. Do you agree? (Note: if you disagree, you’re wrong.)

Really? There are plenty of stories to tell, I’ll admit that, but I’m not so sure what travels from ear to ear. I’d love to hear this mythos if it does indeed exist. Oh wait, are you talking about my dick?

4. Answer three of the following five questions: A- What the hell is wrong with Joseph Bouthiette Jr.?

I admire that guy. He is 100% himself all the time, no apologies and no regrets. Yes, he ate a copy of HEARERS OF THE CONSTANT HUM, but he did it because he wanted to. He set his mind to it and he accomplished his goals. We should all aspire to be like Junior. I want to see more people eating my book.

B- When was the last time you murdered someone?

Pass.

C- When are we having some beers?

The only reason why we haven’t yet is because I am trying to save enough money to buy you all the beers I owe you. Every time I get close, you do something else and I owe you more beers. So…soon. And so many beers…

D- What’s it like working with Mr. Andersen Prunty?

I do all the work while he sleeps on the couch and farts.

E- Who cut the cheese?

I only had to answer three, but I think you can figure the answer to this out if you’ve been paying attention.

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What’s your latest book about and why should everyone get to clicking and grab a copy right now?

My latest book is called HEARERS OF THE CONSTANT HUM. It’s about a man who hears insects speaking, repeating the same phrase over and over again. He becomes obsessed with creating a way for other people to hear it and he quickly discovers the further he goes on his journey, the more his body collapses. He is determined to finish his work before his inevitable death…the future of the world depends on it. The book is also about a young woman who aspires to be uniquely individual and completely independent, but finds herself being held back due to various internal and external struggles. It’s also about a problematic relationship between two brothers, and also commitment, and loyalty, and human interaction, and technology, and the fact that we are all losing something precious as we progress. Are the sacrifices worth it? I’d like to think the book makes a strong argument for both sides, leaving the decision up to the reader. That said, I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading.

Everyone should get to clicking and grab a copy right now because you are all humans and this book was intended to be read by humans.

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_____________

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias

Show Me Your Shelves: David W. Barbee

David W. Barbee is one of those rare individuals I liked from the get-go. He’s amicable, talented, and has a great sense of humor. He’s also a great wrestler. In any case, I read a lot of bizarro, and very few author have the kind of innate understanding of the genre that David possesses. His books are always a blast and his readings have the kind of sexiness and nastiness balance that makes you gag and wink at once. Now that Mr. Barbee has a new book out, I asked him to show me his stuff. Dig it.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

I’m David W. Barbee and I’m a weird author, which is to say that I’m a weird person who writes things but also that the things I write are really fucking strange. Books and stories have been a huge part of my life because they afforded me an escape from the real world, which is usually a shitty place for me to hang around in. Instead of religion, I worship stories: all those cool pop culture things that I grew up with and that sustained me, whether they’re books or movies or comics or video games. I always knew that I wanted to create my own stories that would reflect all the weird things that I hold so dear.

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You were in the first NBAS. You’re a bizarro OG. How come you’re still around when so many have failed? Are you comfortable with being a go-to guy when newbies like me have questions? Can we call your gramps?

My OG status is thanks to a steady diet of Don’t Give A Fuck Flakes. I eat a hefty bowl every morning with orange juice instead of milk. It’s strange that I’m one of the most successful NBAS authors, mainly because I feel like my book was one of the weakest. Carnageland was supposed to be the beginning of a perverted alien trilogy, and published alone the first part is too short and doesn’t have enough character development. Anyway, I remember Carlton Mellick III talking about the qualities each of us had back then. Some of us were good performers or promoters or even lived in Portland with the Eraserhead crew. My quality was my determination. I lacked experience but I wanted to be a bizarro author more than anything. I was willing to throw myself into it, even if I didn’t always know what I was doing. To this day I try to make up for it all with hard work. It’s the same approach I have when I’m writing. I’m not always the best but I show up and I work at it. Now I have people calling me gramps and asking for my advice, which I’m happy to give but I must warn you: like every old man in existence, my advice will be folksy, simplistic, and irrelevant. Now get off my lawn.

Using the books on your shelves, give me five bizarro titles everyone should read and five non-bizarro books every bizarro fan needs to check out.

Five Bizarro Titles: Quicksand House, Space Walrus, The Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living, Starfish Girl, and The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island

Five Non-bizarro Books (and why!)

Smonk, because it’s one of the meanest and most brutal books on my shelf.

The Hangman’s Ritual, because it’s just as brutal but also beautiful and elegant.

-The Plucker, because it’s my favorite modern-day children’s fable.

-Bones of the Moon, because Neil Gaiman ripped it off in a Sandman storyline.

-Top 10, because it’s Alan Moore writing a superhero cop show and it’s stunning.

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Please finish the following sentences:

David W. Barbee is… a diddle-eyed Joe to a damned-if-I-know.

Zelda is… my future daughter, the first of what I hope to be many offspring, and probably the one who will bring balance to the Force.

If I had a beer with Cthulhu… we’d ride around town visiting my enemies and filling their souls with our puke.

The most amazing southern plate is… cornbread…. Mercy, I love me some cornbread.

I wish Kevin L. Donihe… a very Merry Christmas.

The best comic book ever… is Garth Ennis’ Preacher. That comic reached out and pinned me to my seat.

My wrestling name is… Barbeque Sauce Boondock

I’m inspired by… All the weird stuff, even the weird stuff that I’m not into, simply because of the people who love it. The fans of weird stuff are usually the most delightful people on earth, especially in the case of the Bizarro community.

Tell folks about your new book and at least one reason they should run and buy it right now.

My new book, THE NIGHT’S NEON FANGS, is a collection of four novellas that are very near and dear to my heart. My best stories are the ones that are personal and reflect who I am on the inside. They are full of monsters and maniacs, humor and horror, sex and drugs. A Town Called Suckhole was like that, and this book is even better because you get FOUR stories packed into one book. That kind of value refuses to be ignored, so just get it over with and buy a copy!

Show Me Your Shelves: Mark Rapacz

by Gabino Iglesias 

I met Mark Rapacz the same way I’ve met a bunch of cool people: he had a book out there I wanted to review. City Kaiju turned out to be a lot of fun and I was wondering what else Mark could be cooking. A few months later, the mailman brought me an answer to that, and it was something so cool it made me ask Mark to show me his shelves. Get ready for some books and some toilets.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

Whoa. Who am I?

Nearly three years ago I moved to California and for anybody new to the state they give you this really weird gift basket. In it is a bottle of Napa wine, a hunk of cheese that isn’t as good as Wisconsin’s (hard for a Minnesotan to admit), and a therapist.

So, my therapist and I have been working on this question, “Who am I?” for over a year. Outside the context of self-affirmations, positive thinking, and quasi-spiritual advice that has me twisting my leg over my head and straining my groin (it cures anxiety!), I’m a writer, editor and designer.

Depending on my mood and time of the year, I spend more time working in one of these creative modes than others, and it’s impossible to do them all at the same time. When you try to do all three, you just end up spending more time with the Gift Basket Therapist, doing more stretches and breathing exercises, and obsessing about resource inequality issues in the Bay Area, which Gene never thinks is on point because it’s not specifically about my issues.

What I’m saying is that books are sort of like yoga, only easier on your ass muscles.

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Tell me who your favorite kaiju is, and then what book you would give him or her as a birthday gift.

My favorite kaiju is Gamera because he’s a giant tortoise and can fly by pulling his arms, legs, head, and tail into his shell and shooting jets of flames out his arm/leg holes, which makes him dart around like a flying saucer. He can also fly like a rocket—depending, you know, on the circumstance.

I like the symbolism behind Gamera and turtles and tortoises in general—that of a protector of some kind. Sometimes they protect nature, sometimes humanity, sometimes they’re guardians by virtue of being creators of the universe. It depends on what folklore you’re looking at. Gamera actually has connections with the Black Tortoise, or guardian spirit of the north—of the winter season— which could also mean the protector of death.

Being from the cold wastelands of Minneapolis, I like that connection because it allows me to daily judge these weenies in California who think 65 degrees is cold. There’s also something about being from a place where death is a totally reasonable outcome if you get locked out of your apartment at the wrong time of year. This teaches you humility (in a mind-blowing awesome way).

I like the pace of turtles and their connection with peace and longevity—their depiction as beings who were here long before us and will be long after. It puts the human life span, and by extension our obsession with ourselves, in perspective.

I mean, I think writers are clinically self-deprecating, so turtles probably aren’t the healthiest choice of spirit animal—maybe, like, a penguin in a Hawaiian shirt might be better—but … I don’t know what I’m trying to say. The Kardashians should maybe get a pet box turtle and give it some dumb Hollywood name. It might make them come off as more human that way.

I’ve also always had an obsession with turtles and tortoises. I’ve been known to write about them (here and here). I have a huge ceramic turtle collection and have planned a number of vacations to the Galapagos that my wife and I cannot afford. Costa Rica has some service vacations where you can help sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean. Always wanted to do that, but have been reluctant because it might affect my reputation in the writing world as the consummate badassthatIam. Like, I can do over ten pull-ups, I own a BB gun,and I have read a number of David James Keaton’s Facebook posts about violent movies.

If Gamera flying-saucered to my apartment right now, I’d tell him to read the first and most amazing book of American kaiju fiction: Moby Dick.

Then I’d show him my small stack of City Kaijus (the kaiju book I wrote) and guilt him into finally writing that Amazon review he promised. Or, I’d ask him to just plasma blast every copy because that would probably be a better promotional tactic than the review.

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Your shelves look like mine, which is to say packed and groaning under the weight of too many books. Is there a method to your madness? What makes you buy a book? The cover of City Kaiju is awesome. Do you think covers sell books?

I usually just see what mastermind and pulp aficionado Craig T. McNeely is reading and buy whatever he tells me to. Or, I read your [Gabino Iglesias’] reviews. I’ve bought plenty that way. I follow Anthony Neil Smith and whenever he says he has a book coming out, I buy it. I do the same thing with Mike Miner’s books. Basically All Due Respect anything right now is a sure bet. Sometimes David Oppegaard goes insane at two in the morning and sends me a draft of one of his works-in-progess to proof. I really like that. Always love seeing a book before it officially comes out.

Covers by Matthew Revert, Dyer Wilk, and Eric Beetner sell books.

How would you describe Blastgun Books in 27 words?

Blastgun Books is releasing TA Wardrope’s book of sci fi kaplow, Arcadian Gates, on March 17. Pre-order now.

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What’s your latest book about (tell us about its history too!) and why should folks go get it immediately?

My latest book is called Les Toilettes d’ Alcatraz. It is an ultra-serious look at the depravity of federal incarceration through the lens of Instagram filters. It has writings about life and love, including poetry, essays, captions, and diatribes that will, more or less, save your soul the moment you crack its spine.

Actually, if you don’t buy this book of amazing photographs and musings, you will be complicit in your Eternal Existence on the Wheel of Want and Suffering, and you will never break free to become a Hermitbird of the Cosmos, flying into the heavens on a Rainbow Trail of Maniacal Bliss.

So, a billion years down the road when it’s just you and Gamera on some hunk of lava stone in a sea of fire somewhere out in the worst parts of the Multiverse and Gamera is about to plasma blast your soul nuts off for the duration of another ice age, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

Don’t have your soul nuts blasted off by a turtle god. Buy this book now.

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias

Flash Fiction Friday: The Ghouldigger’s Daughter

by Nicholaus Patnaude

Lorna clicked on the link in the anonymous email directing her to Juglicious.com and fought back the urge to vomit-Gerald had promised never to show the photos to anyone, unless their exposure would help give clues to the whereabouts of her missing daughter, Hannah.

Somebody answered on the third ring.

“Hello? Gerald?”

Heavy breathing on the other end.

“We want to film you this time,” a woman’s voice said. “Be at The Mikado in thirty minutes. Wear a winter coat with nothing on underneath.”

The line clicked off.

*

The Mikado was empty except for a bartender and a woman slumped over a bevy of manila folders.

The woman smirked, a gold fang-shaped tooth glinting as Lorna approached.

“The shoot’s for GangBangBeavers.com. If you fuck one thousand guys in ten days on camera and appear to like it, we will vanish from your life and return Hannah.”

Lorna picked up the pint glass and pushed it into the woman’s face, feeling a shard grind against her thumb as she cleft the woman’s nose.

As Lorna slammed the woman’s head onto the glass bits and spilled beer, she heard the shutter of a camera open and close.

The bartender lowered the camera and pressed a button behind one of the booths. A projector screen unrolled. A naked man, chiseled and tan, lounged on a bearskin rug beside a fire with a glass of cognac precariously held in his tightly-bound hands.

‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5 played on a turntable.

A cattle prod burst into the frame, zapping the man’s gargantuan member.

“Say it,” a garbled female voice said from off-screen.

“Help me,” the man said. “And help Hannah. Just do what they say. You don’t want to see what they’ve done to Hannah, I—” the man said before another zap from the cattle prod made his jaw clench and sent him writhing in a seizure.

After the transmission ended, the bartender led Lorna to his silver Jaguar, a shotgun pressed into her lower back.

Lung Woman, New York City’s greatest ally in fighting crime, swung from a strand of flesh and drop-kicked the bartender.

Lung Woman’s head exploded from a shotgun blast.

Up close, Lorna could see through the bartender’s nylon.

Gerald.

“I always loved you, Gerald. Even when you dressed as a woman,” Lorna said, easing up the nylon.

“Don’t touch me,” Gerald said, cracking Lorna’s jaw with the back of his jeweled-ringed hand.

Gerald’s phone rang.

“They want to talk to you.”

“You’re gonna get gang-banged tonight. If Henrietta is turned on by your performance, we’ll return Hannah,” the same garbled woman’s voice said.

“Any questions?” Gerald asked, pulling the nylon over his lipstick and eye-shadow, raising the shotgun.

But Lung Woman had survived, her exploded face making her resemble The Wasp Woman.

“Stop. Both of you. Just put me in the trunk,” Lorna said.

“Like we did last time?” The Wasp Woman said.

*

Lorna heard the keys jingle outside the trunk. Gerald and The Wasp Woman escorted her to an ivory high rise with unruly vegetation sprouting from the roof and windows of the penthouse apartment. It was beside the white oaks, rats skittering over bedrock, and the pond of NYC’s Central Park.

The doorman licked his lips and faux-pouted at Lorna.

The apartment was dim and her flats kept sticking to the mahogany floor. A shadowy figure sat in the corner veiled by a mosquito net listening to a Marlene Dietrich record on an antique turntable with muscular men whipping wooly mammoths lugging pianos carved into the nickel-plated wooden base. On the inside of its brass horn, paintings of reddened blue and green eyes glared.

Rosewood furniture legs crackled and a plume of green and purplish smoke rose from a cushion in a fireplace with a cast-iron mantelpiece, elephant bird skeleton and shark fin shapes carved into the metal.

An August breeze lifted the lace curtains of the bay window overlooking the stone bridge and wood ducks on the Central Park Lake.

The bronze muscular man from the transmission crawled down through the chimney, goat legs having replaced his arms. Flames licked his oily body, smelling of blackened hot dogs, as he scratched behind his ear with a goat hoof on the bearskin rug.

The figure under the mosquito netting lit a cigarette with a silver Zippo.

“Strip,” the woman said in a husky voice.

“Where’s Hannah?”

“Don’t worry. She won’t see any of this.”

The bronze-skinned hunk with goat legs set up a video camera on a tripod as Lorna unbuttoned her winter coat, which had caused an itchy sweat to accumulate in her unshaved armpits.

Gerald and The Wasp Woman returned, carrying a roasted Elephant-headed man tied by rope to an iron pole.

As instructed, Lorna wore nothing beneath her winter coat.

Beads of sweat rolled down her sides as she trembled and her breath quickened.

Gerald, wearing high-heels and a cocktail dress, batted his heavy green eyelashes and motioned Lorna towards the flames of the fire as The Wasp Woman removed her spandex jumpsuit with the neon yellow lungs printed over the rib portion.

As they pushed Lorna into the flames, her sense of balance and gravity ruptured while she held onto the hot iron sides of the fireplace as if about to fall down a well.

Lorna looked down and saw the balsa wood crawlspace door from her parent’s bedroom with the charcoal spider she’d drawn as a child. It swung open. Lorna saw her father stroking himself in front of three separate screens of heavily mascaraed women’s faces: half-smiling, drugged, and rocking gently forward and backward with their bodies painted sparkling silver and sparkling gold.

It was her father’s blue face, like the time she’d caught him doing that but with an elephant’s trunk for a nose and a pair of tusks on his cheeks, which kept drooping downward as they had been jammed into putty instead of an organic part of his bone structure.

Lana looked away as he yelped and ejaculated, only to see a mass of undulating flesh on the bearskin rug in front of the fireplace to which she clung. Her fingertips sizzled. Claws grabbed Lorna’s forearms and swung her up into the moist pink and slick bronze mix as pleasure gutted her sense of reason, poise, and inhibition, filling each relaxing and accommodating orifice with throbbing meat and curling tongues.

Henrietta left her mosquito net, gently massaging her ginger-haired vulva and clitoris, using a five-horned feathered object with an angry clay Native American man’s face surrounded by red and white beads in its center.

When Henrietta moaned, as if sliced by a butcher knife from nipple to nipple, everyone climaxed. They all slept for a time.

*

Lorna’s knees ached and her sex felt raw from the aggressive acts she had performed on camera.

Hannah slept soundly in the backseat.

Lorna gripped the steering wheel, the urges lessening.

The ghost of Lorna’s father sat in the passenger seat.

“Will you make me a promise?” he said.

“Sure.”

He looked at her with sad blue eyes.

“Forgive me

———-

Nicholaus Patnaude grew up in haunted, rural Connecticut. After completing his degree at Bard College, he worked in a variety of mental institutions and halfway houses. An excerpt from his illustrated novel, First Aide Medicine, was published in The Seahorse Rodeo Folk Review November, 2010 issue. First Aide Medicine, which won the 2010 International Emergency Press contest, was published on June 4th, 2013. He currently lives and works as a teacher in La Paz, Bolivia. He can be found blogging about underground writers, psychedelic music, and cult cinema at nicholauspatnaude.com or on twitter at @poemcultureblog.

Show Me Your Shelves: Brian Alan Ellis

Say what you like about Facebook, but it’s a great place to meet awesome people. One day a book popped up on my feed. The title caught my eye: The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow. It was written by a guy named Brian Alan Ellis. I reached out. He sent me a digital copy. I read it. It was funny and sad and a bit noir and somewhat bizarro and a hell of a lot of fun. Most importantly, it made me go “Who the fuck is this guy?” Anyway, I reviewed that book for Electric Literature and then stayed in touch with Brian. We haven’t shared a drink/night in jail combo yet, but we became friends because wrestling and books and humor and gnomes (especially Gnome Chomsky). Then he asked me to blurb his next book, and I did. Better yet, I asked him to show me his stuff. He did. Then he also showed me his books. And his bathtub. Anyway, here’s what he had to say and major props to the wonderful Christia Nunnery for the photos.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

My name is Brian Alan Ellis, not to be confused with Bret Easton Ellis, Brian Allen Carr, or Karen Allen ofRaiders of the Lost Ark-fame. Books are kind of my thing. I buy them, borrow them, give them away, smell them, chew on them, bathe with them, write them, publish them, etc. etc. I’ll even read them, from time to time.
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There’s a place where wrestling and literature meet. Tell us about that awesome place.

They meet on the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard and Jabroni Drive.

You seem to favor short stories over long novels. Do you hate Russians?

Actually, in my twenties, I read the shit out of Russians. I read all those motherfuckers: Gogol, Dostoevsky,Yuri Olesha, Mikhail Bulgakov, etc. etc. Chekov is my dawg, though. He’s def. one of my main short-story influences, so blame him. As far as novels go, I definitely own more short-story collections. The novels I’ve enjoyed are definitely few and far between. Nothing matches the power or beauty of a killer short story. I’ve gotten more out of reading a 500-word Lydia Davis story about socks than I have from many of those so-called “Great American Novels,” which are generally stuffy and longwinded.

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So what’s the longest novel you own?

The longest novel I’ve ever read was probably Something Happened by Joseph Heller (or maybe a couple of Céline books, I don’t know). Big fan of it. Would you believe that this is the only Heller novel I’ve ever read? I’ve never even finished Catch-22. It wasn’t dark or funny enough. Something Happened is the funniest, darkest book I’ve ever read. It kills all that spooky Stephen King-Halloween-monster shit. See also: The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr.  Also, also: The fattest book I own is probably The Essential Ellisonby Harlan Ellison; the tallest, Henry Rollins’s Get in the Van; the thinnest, Bring Me Your Love by Charles Bukowski (illustrated by Robert Crumb).

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What’s the title of your newest book and why should folks stop reading and go buy it right now?

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty is my latest story collection. It’s so wild I had to give it three titles. Also, it comes recommended by you, Gabino. And everyone knows that your word is law, boss.

[Note: No books were seriously harmed in the making of this article.]

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias

Flash Fiction Friday: They Don’t Serve Ice Cream in Hell

by John Wayne Comunale

“Your suffering will be legendary . . . if you eat this and happen to be lactose intolerant.”

The child, not more than four years old, stared up blank-faced at the former Cenobite as he added the third and final scoop of fudge-ripple to a large waffle cone the young boy was clutching tightly with both of his tiny hands. The boy wasn’t scared of the black-eyed, prickly-faced demon, or what he had to say to him. He just wanted to eat as much of the tower of ice cream that teetered in his hands before dropping it, which he eventually did after taking only two steps out the door.

“Pinhead!”

The voice of Mr. O’Rodenberry seemed to come from out of nowhere, and startled him. It made Pinhead remember a fonder time in the not so distant past when it was impossible for him to be startled.

“My office now,” came the voice again from the tiny intercom speaker built into the wall behind him.

“Yes sir,” he sighed placing the ice cream scoop back in its designated, stainless steel holster.

He kept his head down as he walked to the office so he wouldn’t accidentally catch the reflection of himself in the door’s small window. The one thing he hated more than having to wear a pink and purple striped apron, and a stupid paper hat, was actually having to look at himself wearing a pink and purple striped apron with a stupid paper hat. Pinhead heaved another heavy sigh, knocked lightly on Mr. O’Rodenberry’s door, and entered a moment later. Nary a day had gone by since Pinhead started working at O’Rodenberry’s Sweet Frozen Creams that he wasn’t called back to the office for one thing or another. Gone were the days of gluttonously feeding upon the suffering of others as the terror-inducing leader of the Cenobites. Now he filled his time by scooping ice cream, and cleaning the gutters at his mom’s house.

“Get in here and sit the hell down now!”

Mr. O’Rodenberry spit the words at Pinhead through a thick, gruff Southern accent. His voice was rougher than two-day stubble on the chin of a hooker with a pituitary problem. Pinhead kept his head down, removed his hat, and sat in the chair in front of Mr. O’Rodenberry’s desk.

“Jeeeezus fucking Christ, Pinhead,” said Mr. O’Rodenberry. His drawl was so pronounced it seemed like it took him ten minutes just to spit out those four words. “Why does it seem like we have to have this conversation every single day? Now, quite frankly I gotta’ tell you that I am sick and tired of talking about it.”

“Yes sir, I understand . . . “

“You say that,” said Mr. O’Rodenberry cutting of the old demon off, “but I don’t think you do understand. If you understood, then we wouldn’t have to have this conversation everyday, and we certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation now!”

“Mr. O’Rodenberry,” said Pinhead. His voice still held some of the deep timbre of older times, but it no longer struck terror into those he directed it toward. “I am truly sorry, and I can assure you it will not happen again.”

“Well, excuse me all to hell if I have a hard time believing you, because you assured me yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.”

“Mr. O’Rodenberry . . .”

“Don’t Mr. O’Rodneberry me! Now listen son, you are not a big, scary demon who feeds upon the ultimate suffering of others anymore. You work for me now scooping ice cream at this fine, family friendly ice-creamery. Now, stop talking all that Cenobite, Hellraiser shit to my good payin’ customers, and just scoop the goddamn ice cream. I swear boy, if you’re mother didn’t practically beg me to give you this job I’d have fired your prickly-faced ass a hundred times over. Now, get back out there, and get to scoopin’! So help me if I hear one more word about legendary suffering, or tears, or Jesus weeping, then so help me I’ll give him and you something to cry about!”

Pinhead nodded in reply, placed the paper hat back on his spikey head, and slunk out of the office silently save for the jingle-jangle of the many hooks and chains that dangled from his chest. It was going on six months since he had been unceremoniously fired from the Cenobites, but it felt like it was just yesterday. Everything had been going so well in his life up till then .

It happened so long ago that he didn’t know why it even mattered anymore, especially when you consider all the suffering and pain he had caused throughout his career. He was legendary in . . . well, he was legendary, especially in hell. He didn’t just go around using that phrase willy-nilly. He and his partners, Cecilia and Mark, were out on one of their first cases and were all equally eager to show what they could do, but before they closed the deal things got out of hand. They toyed with their victims for just a bit too long allowing time for one of them to escape. Her name was Kristy, the stupid bitch.

The three figured that if they quickly moved on to another case, and then on to another, and then another, then their failure would slip between the cracks to be lost in the mix, and that was exactly what happened. This is why when Pinhead was called to appear that day before the Grand Council years later he was certain it was to receive a promotion. He had gotten up early and polished his pins until they glinted bright in the light of the hellfire. He’d put on his best hooks and chains, and had his favorite leather torture dress wiped down and treated to bring back it’s original shine and luster. You can imagine the shock when he arrived to find he was on trial.

It happened fast. Faster than Pinhead could react. Faster than he could even begin to try and plead his case. The Council’s harsh judgment left him no longer a bringer of sorrow and pain and ultimate suffering. Now he had been reduced to an odd looking, leather dress-wearing, powerless weirdo with a bad complexion. He lost everything and was forced to move back in with his mother in New Jersey, and work for her secret lover, Mr. O’Rodenberry, in his ice cream shop.

Pinhead passed through the stainless steel swinging door to retake his post behind the counter. He gripped the handle of the scoop while staring off through the front window. His coal-black, pupil-less eyes looked upon a fiery landscape of burning bodies and tortured souls of his fantasy. He saw singed flesh flap in the hot, dry breeze of a paradise he could no longer visit. He saw his former home and his heart, which was once filled with an unquenchable thirst for the pain he stole from others, was now filled heavy with his own sorrow.

Pinhead’s daydream was interrupted when a face materialized through his vision of black and burning sadness. It was the last face on Earth he wanted to see . . . on Earth. It was the face that had been the ultimate source for all of his present problems. It was the face of Kristy. The one who got away. She had walked into the ice cream shop and stood in front of the counter staring at him with a sarcastically cocked eyebrow, and half-sneer.

“Um, like hello?” Kristy waved her hand in front of Pinhead’s face trying to snap him out of his daze. “Are you like awake, or whatever? I totally want some ice cream.”

He couldn’t believe it. There, standing not three feet in front of him was the one miserable, living, sack of organs that had ever escaped from his grasp. The current cause of all the pain and misery his life had become, and the reason he could no longer garner satisfaction from those feelings.

“It’s you,” he said still trying to make sense of the current cosmic twist he was experiencing.

“Like, yeah it’s me,” said the obviously oblivious girl. “Who else would it be? Do I like know you or something?”

“Know me? Do you not remember my child? The suffering?”

“The Suffering? Is that like some kind of band you play in, or something? I guess you do look kind-of familiar. Did you guys open for The Torture Barons last month? I was like so wasted at that show, but I think I remember you guys being good. So, is this like your day job, or something?”

Before he could answer Pinhead turned slightly to see Mr. O’Rodenberry standing there; arms crossed and glaring death rays.

“What was that you were saying, Pinhead?” Came the drawl of Mr. O’Rodenberry’s gravely, and heavily accent-affected voice. “Was that something about suffering I heard?”

Pinhead swallowed hard and managed a smile, as he turned around halfway to acknowledge his boss.

“Why, not at all sir,” he said flatly. “We were merely discussing a performance put on by a local musical troupe, for which this young lady has mistaken me for a member of.”

“Is that a fact?”

“Yes sir, it is,” said Pinhead turning back toward Kristy. “I am sorry ma’am, but I’m afraid you have me confused with someone else. It happens more often than you’d think. I just have one of those faces, I suppose.”

“Yeah okay, whatever,” Kristy said rolling her eyes. “Like I care who you are anyway. Can I like get some ice cream, or are we gonna’ play celebrity look alike all day?”

The sheer insolence of her tone and the arrogance of her actions made it hard to resist the urge for Pinhead to gouge his hooks into her face and pull her eyeballs out.

“Pinhead?” Asked Mr. O’Rodenberry, “you gonna’ help out this nice young lady, or do I need to find someone else who can?”

“Yes, of course sir,” said Pinhead impressed by his ability to make himself sound calm. “I will take care of her posthaste. No need to seek help from elsewhere. What can I get for you, ma’am?”

“Like, finally. Sheesh.”

The squishy fleshling pressed her hands and face up against the glass of the refrigerated counter to get a better look at the flavors. Her greasy nose and filthy digits left smudges and smears across the otherwise spotless glass that Pinhead would have to clean later.

“Might I recommend our organic butterscotch cream made fresh and in house? It really is quite delicious.”

“Butter-what? That sounds stupid. You know, all of this looks really gross. I don’t want any of this stuff.”

“Don’t blow another sale, Pinhead,” whispered Mr. O’Rodenberry into an ear that had heard thousands of death-rattle shrieks.

“Perhaps a nice strawberry cone would be more suited to the tastes of a young lady like yourself?” continued Pinhead. “Or, we have a new . . .”

“Like, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I’m sorry ma’am?”

“Did you just, like, ask me to taste your strawberry cone, or something? Are you like trying to be some kind of sexual pervert with me or something? What the eff?”

The urge to shoot spiked chains from his chest into her body and tear her to shreds was almost unbearable. Not that he could do it even if he wanted to since all of his enchantments had been taken away when he lost his Cenobite status.

“Ma’am, I assure you that I in no way was trying to offend you. I merely wanted to . . .”

“Wanted to stick your prickly, limp dick in my mouth, is, like, that what you wanted to do?”

Pinhead remained stoic and unaffected by her accusations.

“No.”

“Whatever. I am like totally out of here. I bet your ice cream tastes like a horse’s cock anyway.”

With that she spun around on her heel, let out a haughty humph, and headed for the door. Mr. O’Rodenberry’s lips were almost touching Pinhead’s ear now.

“Pinhead,” he spat down his ear canal, “if she leaves here without buying something, so help me . . .”

“Kristy,” blurted Pinhead just as she had taken one step out the door. She turned around with her head cocked to the side in confusion.

“Like, how do you know my name, creeper?”

Their eyes locked and for a moment it seemed as if everything in the ice cream shop, and the city, and even the whole world had slowed to revolve around this heated stare down. Pinhead opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out as the pain of the memory of a life he could never get back took its final toll in that moment.

“Well? Like, answer me, you perv.”

Pinhead turned from Kristy, to Mr. O’Rodenberry, back to Kristy, and shrugged his shoulders.

“Jesus wept?”

________

John Wayne lives in Houston Texas where he wiles away the days writing ridiculous stories, and slinging lattes for a bunch of jerks. When he’s not doing that he’s touring with his bands: johnwayneisdead and Letters to Voltron. He also writes and illustrates his own zine: The Afterlife Adventures of johnwayneisdead.

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